The imperfect tense - when to use it

An explanation of the uses of the imperfect tense and how to conjugate it

The imperfect tense is used:

  • to describe repeated or continuous actions in the past
  • to describe what something or someone was like in the past
  • to say what people used to do or what things used to be like

For example:

  • Iba a pie todos los días (I walked every day)
  • Mi escuela primaria era muy grande (my primary school was very big)
  • En el pasado jugaba al baloncesto (in the past, I used to play basketball)

The imperfect tense is also used to describe weather in the past. For example:

  • Hacía sol/calor (It was sunny/hot)
  • Estaba frío/nublado, etc (It was cold/cloudy, etc)
  • Nevaba (It was snowing)
  • Llovía (it was raining)

The imperfect tense is frequently used with phrases that describe how often something used to happen eg, regularmente (regularly), a veces (sometimes), cada día/todos los días (every day), generalmente (usually), etc.